NEW YORK CITY-Upmarket grocer Stew Leonard’s will open a 150,000-sf store and 50,000-sf garden center in the Farmingdale, Long Island community of Babylon, town officials tell The new location, expected to open in 2004, will be the family-run concern’s fourth store.

Stew Leonard officials tell the Nassau County store will cost roughly $22 million to build, excluding the price of the 19-acre site at the intersection of Broad Hollow Road and Conklin Street, for which the company is paying in the neighborhood of $18 million. The seller is a division of the Fairchild Corp.

Stew Leonard’s, which features fresh dairy products as well as meats, fish, produce, baked goods, cheese and wine, opened its flagship store in Norwalk, CT in 1969. Currently, the company has locations in Danbury, CT and Yonkers, NY. The Long Island store is expected to open in summer 2004.

“Recently, I opened a wine store in Farmingdale, and I am thrilled with both the customers I’ve met and the community support we have received,” says company president and CEO Stew Leonard, Jr. “I’m sure our family’s food store will do just as well. We’ll be hiring over 500 people and they will be a tremendous resource.”

Roughly 70% of the store’s employees will be full-time and about 40% of those workers will perform non-retail duties including food manufacturing, processing, personnel, warehousing and transportation, and positions such as electricians, carpenters, mechanics, graphic artists and executive chefs.

Leonard refers to the stores as “a cross between a traditional supermarket and a farmer’s market,” citing the in-store dairy plants and bakeries, fresh mozzarella making stations and the cut-to-order meat departments as examples of Stew Leonard’s ‘show-and-sell’ innovative merchandising. Just as innovative are the stores’ costumed characters, animatronics and scheduled entertainment events.

The company expects to spend $20 million annually in goods and services purchased from New York farmers, businesses and vendors, as a result of the new store. Another $100,000 a year in cash and in-kind contributions will go toward charitable organizations in Babylon. The store will have a payroll of approximately $15 million per year, with much of that money spent in the town. It is estimated that the company will contribute approximately $400,000 a year in local property and school taxes, and $2 million a year in New York State sales tax.

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